In a hyper competitive business environment, it’s no surprise that brands are hungry to experiment with new ways to engage users, grow loyalty and boost revenues. High profile failures like Kodak, Blockbuster and HMV act as a warning to many: rely on a single offering, or more importantly, a single point of customer engagement and you risk getting left behind in a fast moving and cut throat market.
On the flip-side, successes are held up as examples of best practice for many. Take fashion retailer Boohoo, for example – when it comes to marketing, Boohoo has gone to great lengths to really understand its audience. It uses influencer engagement to expertly get on the radar of its youth demographic and exploits the channels it knows its customers use. Social platforms like Snapchat and Instagram and mobile marketing campaigns are all the order of the day for this brand – and it’s paid dividends in terms of customer loyalty and revenue.
However, the reason that brands like Boohoo do well isn’t just the way they engage with customers, it’s the quality of those interactions across every platform. So, how do brands get it right? How do they embrace new engagement methods whilst ensuring that everything continues to run smoothly?
Let’s take a closer look at one of the newest ways of interacting with customers – Progressive Web Applications – considering how, (and who) can make sure this new model is delivering for brands.
What are Progressive Web Apps?
But PWAs go way beyond hybrid in terms of performance and functionality. They promise to be more reliable; able to load even under uncertain network conditions. They’re fast too, they’re engaging – and feel like a natural app on any device, delivering an immersive and consistent user experience – regardless of the platform.
Perhaps most importantly, PWAs offer offline access and the ability to incorporate on-board sensor access for a richer experience. The caching mechanism is a big step forward from yesterday’s hero – Responsive Web Design, which only works when you’re connected to the Internet. It makes the app faster and more available, and so, more likely to be better used. PWAs can also use device features like cameras, data storage, GPS and motion sensors, face detection, push notifications and more; which pave the way for great AR and VR experiences, right on the web.
So, with these benefits in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that we’re seeing many new companies starting life with a PWA. Whilst they’re less popular in banking and insurance industries, most other market sectors are catching up by embracing the method as the ‘next big thing’. Indeed, in a recent survey conducted by Perfecto, 41 percent of companies report that plan to add PWA capability to their sites over the next 12 months with an additional 32 percent actively researching the shift.
Testing strategies for PWAs
But of course, it’s quality that makes or breaks even the most promising engagement platform – and PWAs are no different. For testers, PWAs introduce a new level of complexity – as with any development of this ilk, new tests (manual and automated) need to be developed, executed and fit into the overall pipeline. PWAs do introduce some unique use cases, such as no network operation, sensor-based functionality (Location, Camera for AR/VR, and more) – and cross-device functionality.
So, how do developers and testers create a robust processing for making sure PWAs work properly?
In discussing testing strategies for PWAs, we need to first examine their architecture. Progressive Web Apps consists of two key components: Manifests and Service Workers. Manifest.Json is the file within the PWA that describes the app, provides metadata specific to the app like icons, splash screens, and more. And Service Workers are script that a browser runs in the background, separate from a web page, opening the door to features that don’t need a web page or user interaction.
At Perfecto, we tell organisations about a six step strategy. The first and second key pillars are effectively owned by developers; and are to make sure that both the Manifest and the Service Workers are well designed and developed. This can be achieved through in-browser capabilities such as Lighthouse, and Google and Edge also have developer tools which can install and validate against a PWA site.
The third step is to validate PWA specific capabilities such as GPS and motion sensors, face detection, push notifications and more. These unique features are what make PWAs so compelling, so it’s vital to make sure that they’re able to work smoothly. The fourth step, object identification is complex and is at the heart of your test automation. Here, we assert the importance of combining Selenium WebDriver technology as well as Appium to complement the mobile native aspects of the PWA. The fifth is cross platform testing – the process of testing how an application works across various different platforms.
Lastly, we advise that any PWA tester and developer cross checks against Google’s PWA compliance checklist. Google is one of the most mature firms operating in this space and following its guidelines can help teams ensure that they’re able to make the move to PWAs as seamless as possible.
So, while at first look, PWAs are a marketers dream, offering an intuitive and compelling way to connect with customers, firms need to look to their developer teams – and specifically their testing processes – to make sure that the quality of any new application meets user expectations. In a world where a review can make or break a business, it’s experience which is crucial and which must be prioritised.
The good news for developers is that it’s really easy to create code for PWAs, and to publish it. The bad news is that it adds a level of complexity to testing and automation which must be prioritised. So, it’s our job, as technologists. give DevOps concrete guidance on how to make the most of the opportunities this new tech provides – whilst overcoming the inevitable challenges of fast innovation.